A book on ethics and philosophy of values

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Besides this “superior tone” adopted by the intuitionist (to use a Kantian expression about the Jacobian realism claiming that we do have an intuition of the thing in itself), this doctrine can be based on an interesting argument, originally formulated by the moral intuitionism:
1/ No moral judgment can be derived from not moral statements.
2/ Hence, for a moral judgment can be derived from other assertions, these assertions must include moral elements.
3/ Hence, for a moral belief be inferentially justified, its justification must include other moral beliefs.
4/ But under pain of infinite regress or circularity, the process of inferential justification must have an end-point.
5/ Hence, there must be some moral beliefs obvious in themselves 1.

We could transpose it in the axiological field in this way:
1/ A judgment of value can be justified only from another judgment of value (or axiological belief).
2/ But under pain of infinite regress or circularity, the process of inferential justification must have an end.
3/ Hence, there must be some axiological beliefs obvious in themselves.

Now we see why the axiological intuitionism is an attractive doctrine. First of all, intuitionism makes a problem disappear, so the human mind is relieved from a burden that it felt unable to lift. Thereafter, this doctrine attributes to all of us the extraordinary power of knowing what has a value and what has not, a faculty of divination at least as estimable as the power to forecast the weather.
Please note that I use the term “axiological intuitionism” in a very broad sense, including not only the doctrines asserting the presence in us of a faculty – intuition- providing an immediate knowledge of values, but also the theories of values which are simply based on evidence, viz. on a value judgment considered as obvious. It will lead me to call ‘intuitionist’ some thinkers who have never presented themselves as such.

At present, we should ask the intuitionist what his intuition reveals to him as to the value of things, in other words: what has a value? Or again: what is the universal hierarchy?


1. Dictionary of ethics and moral philosophy, article « Moral realism »